The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Staff United protest at convocation over new time reporting system 

Emily Kobus
First-year students begin their walk to the Twilight Induction ceremony after Convocation, passing by Staff United protesters August 27.

UVM Staff United picketed at Convocation on August 27 in opposition to the University’s purchase and proposed use of the time tracking system Kronos, said Ellen Kaye, co-president of UVMSU. Kaye said that use of the system would violate the union’s contract.

Licenses for Kronos were purchased for $291,060 on January 27, stated Adam White, executive director of university communications, in a September 1 email. The union was told in January that the licenses had been purchased for $371,000 in August 2022, according to Kaye. 

The University did not come to the union or workers for consultation, Kaye said. The University’s current configuration of the system will impact the contractually guaranteed schedule flexibility of roughly 700 non-exempt staff members, she said.

“It’s not just that we don’t like it—it’s not compatible with how people’s jobs work,” said Cameron Ishee, communications lead of UVMSU. “There are people who come in on a Saturday for half an hour to turn a centrifuge off and turn it back on because that’s the way their job works. It’s the idea of a standard set schedule applying to everybody.”

This chosen version of Kronos would be both controlling and strict, said Ishee.

Kronos would track staff clocking in and out of shifts against a schedule in the system rather than the staff reporting time themselves, and the University’s configuration of Kronos would limit staff’s ability to properly report time as laid out in the flexibility clauses of their contract, Ishee said.

Staff can flex schedules according to their contract, said Ishee, but if a staff member were to flex their time even by 10 minutes through the current Kronos system, a flag would go up in the system as a violation. This violation would have to be addressed by a supervisor, Ishee said.

The current contract between the University and UVMSU provides that hours flexed by employees require supervisor approval in the first place. The contract is valid through June 30, 2024.

Kronos has been used for non-exempt employees in other unions at UVM for more than a decade, White stated in an August 30 email. White said he could not comment on potential contract violations or workers’ abilities to properly report flex time with Kronos.

Negotiations at the bargaining table between the University and UVMSU related to Kronos began in early 2023, Kaye said. The union has been bargaining on the impacts of Kronos implementation since then.

“Convocation was our third action that we have taken, sort of adding a public pressure component to sitting and negotiating at the table, when [that] was becoming very slow,” said Ishee. 

Ishee said that the union felt there were no decision-makers present at negotiation on the administration’s side.

Prior to the picket at Convocation, a work-in and a practice picket were organized by UVMSU. Kaye said the practice picket served as an opportunity for administration to come to an agreement with the union, assuming that they did not want the union at Convocation.

Administration knew UVMSU would not picket if they had come to an agreement, Kaye said.

“I did an extra 90 mile drive, but it was so worth it just to connect with the students and to make our work visible—to make this problem visible,” said Kaye. “It’s really important to let the administration know that we are not backing down. We’re willing to be visible in our opposition and in defending our contract.”

Staff United members call for the UVM administration to bargain more fairly in regards to the proposed Kronos system and its potential union contract violations. (Emily Kobus)

First-year TJ Palmer attended Convocation and said that the picket was a great way to expose a new generation of students to unions in general and to gain support for Staff United early on with the class.

“It grabbed my attention briefly,” said Palmer. “I went over, found out what they were protesting for and went back and enjoyed my evening. It drew my attention to what was going on without affecting my mood at all.”

Sophomore and orientation leader Kyle Cairns was also present and said that the picket affected convocation in a good way, and that the University needs to listen to their workers. Cairns said that many first-years seemed confused, but once issues are brought up, they can gain awareness of issues at UVM.

UVM President Suresh Garimella, Provost Patty Prelock and SGA President Olivia Eisenberg walk through the protesters on the Andrew Harris Commons. (Emily Kobus)

“The convocation was an enormous success,” stated White in an August 30 email. “We’re off to a great start to the fall semester.”

UVM Staff United is still continuing negotiations in regards to Kronos, and will begin bargaining their next contract sometime in late fall, said Kaye. 

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About the Contributor
Emily Kobus
Emily Kobus, Co-Photo Editor
(She/her)  Emily Kobus is a sophomore public communication major, concentrating in community media and journalism and minoring in political science. She began her work at the Cynic as a staff photographer before taking on the role of photo editor. In her free time, Emily enjoys writing, café hopping and exploring the outdoors. Email [email protected] to get in contact with Emily.